Friday, December 02, 2005

Teaching...And Learning

I've been teaching English in Japan for the past five years.

Unlike some of my classmates from high school and university, I am NOT a licensed teacher.

One of the strengths and weaknesses of the JET Program is that you don't have to be a "real" teacher to come over here and teach.

So I do not have the training and education that "real" teachers have.

But I have five years' worth of experience in the trenches. Three years at a junior high school. Five years at various elementary schools. Three months in high school.

Many lessons have been learned...


My mom once told me that she always thought I would either to grow up to be a preacher or a teacher. I'm a spiritual person, and I have my own beliefs, but I'm not big on trying to convince others that I'm right. As Fleetwood Mac said, "You can go your own way."

My high school history teacher let me come back and teach a class once. That was a rough experience. I was teaching kids I had been at school with the year before. Unpleasant.

My Japanese sensei at CWU tried to convince me to stay as far away from education as I could. Didn't do so well there. Although, I have tried to follow the best advice he gave me..."Don't f**k this up." A bit of a shock to a naive college sophomore who, for some bizarre reason, assumed teachers never swore, but a definite wake-up call. Nelson-Sensei, I hope I've done you proud.

Why teaching? On my bad days, I ask myself the same question. There were three things that motivated me to apply for the JET Program and come back as a teacher.

  1. I taught English a bit while I was on my exchange, and I enjoyed the experience. It was very fulfilling to see kids trying their best to speak English.
  2. I'd had such a fantastic time living in Japan and learning about the country during my exchange that I wanted to come back and live here a little more. "A little more" has turned in to six years and counting, but this was the original motivation.
  3. I would be dishonest if I didn't include this as a reason: the money you make working on the JET Program is excellent for a first job out of college.

Teaching has its rewards...

  • A student tells you that thanks to you, they like English.
  • A class goes well, and the students all do a good job of speaking English.
  • You attend a school sporting event and get to know the students better.
  • You attend a school sporting event and get to know the parents better.
  • A student comes up and gives you a hug because you helped that student practice for their college entrance exams, and they made it in.
  • You joke around with a student in the hallway.
  • Your school gives you a heartfelt farewell party that makes you cry.
  • You come up with a successful lesson plan.
  • You teach kids how to dance "The Twist" and they have a great time doing it.
  • You find out that former students are planning on studying overseas once they graduate from high school.

...and its struggles.

  • You feel like your only role is to be a walking, talking tape recorder.
  • You try to get involved in your school, only to have your suggestions rejected outright.
  • You get used to the low expectations on yourself, and stop pushing yourself to do your best.
  • You have a student who tells you that they liked their previous teacher better.
  • You can't be totally open and honest in conversations with students, friends and family because there are certain things that you can't talk about, as they are "school secrets". I lie at times, but I hate to lie when it's not of my own volition.
  • You have a class that is absolutely out of control.
  • Your coworkers make you feel stupid.
  • You wonder if you really are making a difference.
  • You don't feel qualified to be doing what you're doing.
  • You can't agree with the way your coworkers refer to their students...dummies, idiots, etc. Even as a joke, it's in poor taste.

The occupation of "teacher" is necessary, honorable, and dangerous.

Being a teacher is a blessing and a curse.

We are responsible for the way our students turn out.

We are looked up to and looked down on.

We must make sure that our first concern is our students.

We must not be content with ourselves.

We must not be complacent.

We MUST NOT protect the status quo.

We must always strive higher, stronger, better.

We must make sure that there is no ulterior motive in what we teach.

We must continue to learn.

We must maintain curiosity.

We must find that gift that each of our students has, and show them the way to use that gift.

We must have passion for life, desire for learning, respect for others, and joy for every moment we are alive.

We must be a model to our students.

Being a teacher...part of me understands why Nelson-Sensei tried to warn me away.


Blogger PeacefulWarrior said...

never where better words spoken about being a teacher.


Sunday, December 04, 2005 4:19:00 AM  

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